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“Chief Justice Warns: AI Use Could Upend Unstable Election Year

As the Supreme Court of the United States considers the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze and inform decisions, Chief Justice John Roberts has issued a report calling for caution ahead of a contentious election year. In the report, published by the Supreme Court website on August 4, 2020, Roberts calls out the potential pitfalls of AI use in terms of accuracy, as well as public skepticism as to whether the technology can be trusted. He also expressed concern over the use of AI by the government for predictive analytics, citing a need for “continued, continuing study of the use of algorithms in judicial decision making.” The report comes at a critical time as governments, courts, and businesses across the U.S. rely ever more heavily on computer algorithms to analyze data and predict outcomes. This has sparked a ongoing debate about ethical and legal concerns, including the accuracy and reliability of such algorithms. As part of the report, Roberts highlighted the potential for developing regulations that would ensure the use of AI is legally sound and serves the public interest. In particular, he noted that relying on imprecise algorithms to determine certain outcomes could lead to systemic bias. He stated: “The use of algorithms and other automatic decision-making processes in our judicial system will, if improperly designed and/or implemented, lead to decisions based on bias or stereotypes, or result in inaccurate predictions…This could have disastrous consequences in a hotly-contested election year.” The report was not accompanied by any specific action or recommendations. Rather, Roberts says he wants to give time for thoughtful consideration of the many important issues raised by AI before any decisions are made. Ultimately, the report serves to reinforce the importance of public transparency when it comes to the use of AI. Roberts emphasized that “any use of AI by the government or the private sector must be subject to meaningful review and oversight.” This call for increased oversight of AI should ensure that its use is implemented in a manner that is consistent with the public interest and untainted by any hidden bias. The report is sure to fuel ongoing conversations, including in the Supreme Court itself, as the nation faces a crucial election year. In the meantime, Roberts has sent a clear message: The potential issues of using AI must be addressed with caution and thoughtful consideration.